The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for a Winning Sales Deck

After 14+ years of writing hundreds of Sales Decks— I share with you the winning formula!

Recently I published “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Your Startup’s Investor Pitch Deck” and the response has been overwhelming! Thanks to all the readers and people who have reached out!

One of the main requests was “Can you please do a cheat sheet for a sales deck as well?” Yes! With pleasure.

Similar to an investor pitch deck — there is a specific “narrative,” a framework that just works! It’s because of the psychology of the human brain. You’ll find that the 2 frameworks are very similar, with some tweaks. So here we go:

The Best Kept Secret to a Successful Sales

Think of a time that you went shopping and ended up buying way more than you intended to. What happened there? Most likely you encountered a salesperson that was REALLY good. The thing is, being good at sales DOES NOT mean being pushy! If you push, the customer will retreat. Psychology 101. What did that salesperson do to get you to buy so much?

They listened. They listened to what you wanted, what you didn’t want, they read your body language and above all — they EMPATHIZED. They made you feel understood — and when you were in that place, you became putty in their hands.

The key is doing it in an authentic way. Not just lip service.

The Framing of a Sales Pitch

The best way to get started when creating any type of pitch is to frame the listeners questions. And the frame for a sales pitch is:

Do you Understand my Need?

How Does Your Solution Benefit my Need?

How Does it Work?

How has it Benefitted Others Like me?

If I’m Interested — How do I Move Forward?

It’s as simple as that — answer those questions, in that order — and you’ve got the sale.

In our deck format we’ve boiled it down to 4 sections:

  • The Need=The problem, the challenge, the villain or the opportunity in their lives
  • The Solution = The “hero” of the story, what is your solution, how does it work?
  • Business Data — All the good stuff they need to know to validate you — your current status, customers, partners, success stories, differentiation, etc.
  • Vision for the Future — How will you move forward together? What does the roadmap look like? What are the next steps?

And finally, you can summarize with your biggest value proposition if you like.

Drilling Down the Slides

Now I’ll go through slide by slide and explain each one. You might notice some similarities to the Investor Pitch Deck and you would be right! This is good news because if you already have one perfected, the other one is just a matter of adjusting the story and gearing it to the right audience

1. Title Slide – One Line about what it is you do — go for the big vision statement — not What you do — WHY you do! Hit them in the gut with this

2. The Problem They’re Facing – Here’s the place to describe the gap /problem /challenge or missed opportunity that they are facing. This is best told as a story — you don’t want to come right out and tell them that they have a problem, use a bit more finesse — tell them about something that happened to a company like them because of the problem. People are motivated either by the carrot — something good that could happen to them, or the stick — preventing something bad from happening. Which is more motivating for your audience?

3. Trends – This is where you amp up your problem statement. You bring stats, trends, quotes, etc. that prove that this is a true problem and that existing solutions simply aren’t cutting it.

4. Solution — How are you solving this? Create a simple solution sentence: We’re doing X(solving a problem) for Y(for a specific audience) by Z(in a nutshell, what are you? A Platform /app /solution/tool/ etc.) and as a bonus, your secret sauce that is enabling you to do it This should be so simple that anyone could understand it — even if they don’t have a degree in computer science or engineering.

5. Demo — Create an up to five minute demo showing off your solution — it could be a short film, screenshots, a screenflow (use Camtasia) or even a mock up. Guide them through a first time user experience and highlight 4–5 of the standout features. Make them go wow — but don’t overwhelm them with details. Bonus points if you can do a personalized demo to make them see how it could work for them.

6. Products/Offerings — If you have several different types of solutions or products under your main brand, this is the place to talk about them.

7. Benefits — Highlight the important benefits to your users (if this has already come across in the demo, don’t repeat) keep it at 6–8, no more. You might have 2 types of users. ie The business and their customers (users and end users), publishers and brands — you can list benefits for each. This is where you really want to show the value they will get by using you — i.e. cost reduction, increased productivity, few resources — but also unique benefits.

8. Current Status— What are the major milestones you’ve hit that show that you are a contender — which products have been released? Who are your big clients? Partnerships? Make them see that they are missing out by not being on board yet.

9. Use Cases— This is a good place to showcase how some of your clients are using your product/solution. What was the situation before they found you? What solutions were they using (if any)? And now that they are using you, what are the results?

10. Testimonials — Piggybacking on this, now that they have these amazing results, what are they saying about you? Try to get permission from your biggest champions to quote them about how much they love you and why! (This can potentially be combined with the Use Cases)

11. Unique Selling Points — What truly sets you apart from your competition? What’s your secret sauce? What do you have that nobody else out there does? You don’t need to do a competitive analysis, just state why you are the best solution on the market today.

12. Team — This is the place to make them feel that they are in good, capable hands. The executive team should show know how and experience and also highlight the roles that are more customer success oriented.

13. Future Directions — Any exciting additional features or products in the pipeline that you intend to work on later? Maybe this is just the first step in a much bigger vision! Give them something to look forward to!

14. Moving Forward —Now that they’re interested, what do the next few weeks/months look like? What’s the roll out time? Which resources or headcount need to be involved?

15. Pricing Model — This is an optional slide — you can keep it in back up, show it or just put it in a proposal.

Sealing the Deal

At the end of the meeting, the iron is hot — so strike! Try to elicit at least one solid action item — a follow up meeting, a request for proposal, a pilot date — anything that captures the momentum. You are 20X more likely to sell if you capitalize the moment than if you merely follow up. Don’t let the moment pass you by!

You can always improve upon the deck as you start selling and see any unforeseen objections they might bring up. Take note of these and find a way to work them into the deck as you go, before they even come up. That is of course unless it’s a super specific objection that’s relevant only to a specific customer. Practice easily answering these objection questions without getting defensive, and watch them melt away!

Another important point — consistency of message across your company is crucial! Especially as you grow, you want all Sales and Business functions within your organization to be telling the same story, have the same visual look and communicate the same vision — make them all part of the process! This should also be reflected on your website and company’s LinkedIn profile.

Hope this was helpful! I’m here if you have any further questions or need any more support! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments or questions. Good luck!

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  • I worked with Donna last year. She is, simply put, one of the best at corporate storytelling out there. I recommend her regularly to those looking to raise capital, especially when they have a more challenging story to tell. If you want to take your corporate storytelling to the next level, don't hesitate. Work with her. You won't regret it.

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    Leo TrottierLeo TrottierFounder at CleverPet
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    Eva GagnonEva GagnonNudge
  • Donna is absolutely fantastic! We have been working with Donna within week programs in Silicon Valley for Executive MBA of Moscow school of management SKOLKOVO. She is great in transforming 180 degrees your skills and approach to pitching. The students leave the workshop with pure brilliant feeling what and how they should do. Donna is unique, energetic, engaging and super professional. She knows exactly what you need to succeed. And I strongly recommend her workshops for big and small businesses, corporate people, start-uppers and serial entrepreneurs.

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    Joe CastonJoe CastonRainmaker - Revenue and Growth Acceleration. Fractional CRO / VP of Sales, and CMO. Founder at PlayMakersX
  • Donna is an absolute pleasure to work with.
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    The outline of what she presents is second to none and just from a simple phone call with Donna and some follow up we were able to refine our deck to a point that many investors and other entrepreneurs immediately offered to pass our deck along to their contacts.As someone who raised capital before and has constructed a few pitch decks, I can attest to the fact that she brings a different perspective, edge, & insight to the table that the entrepreneur generally doesn't see.

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  • For Donna, finding the story in a pitch is like a logic puzzle. The approach is brilliant. She listens to you tell your story, then guides you through the logical connections. Finally she helps you knit them into a natural story. You retain the authenticity, yet your story delivers your message with a wallop. She shows you the concrete metaphors and guides you around the slippery slopes. At the end of the journey, you've found a story that's your own yet tells the tale you want to tell. She's a remarkable professional. That she's a delightful human being just makes it all magical. I can't recommend her more highly as a corporate storyteller.

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    I highly recommend her to anyone who is looking to improve and shape his/her storytelling abilities, anyone who wants to work on his/her messages, either one-on-one, for a conference or for an investor presentation.

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  • Donna is an expert, guru, professional — all of the above — when it comes to learning the methodology and science behind pitching your business. We've had many high-profile experts host a pitching workshop in our Seed Fund Program (where learning how to perfect your pitch is 99% of the program), and she's been the best by far. Five stars and two thumbs up for you, Donna!  All the best, Keenan

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    Ran HirschRan HirschCo-Founder of A1C Foods
  • Donna is a magician! In just two hours she was able to convert our deck from a presentation full of facts to an engaging story! We even used it at a pitch competition which we won! She also helped us with our website and a few other projects, I recommend her to all CEOs who want to save themselves tons of time, money and disappointments, and want to learn how to pitch their startup better. Thank you Donna!

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